Anybody who does Capoeira for an extended period of time is given a Portuguese nickname by their mestre or contramestre (a.k.a teacher). This name is a form of initiation; it speaks to how well you play the game, how your movement flows or it can be a physical reference. Capoeiristas by nature are like school yard children- playful, silly and sly-they take pride in dolling out their names.
This one guy in class calls me warrior. We are both new to the game and when he says it I feel proud and at the same time like a phony. I often correct him saying “I’m a warrior-in-training”. But in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered if someday my Capoeria name would be the Portuguese name for warrior. I was conflicted as to if I liked this idea or not, since in a way it would be like I was self-named.
A couple weeks ago, at the end of the roda my teacher announced that he thought it was time he gave out names. What fun, I thought since I hadn’t played long enough to earn a name.
My teacher stood there in the circle shaking his head side to side, pondering our names.
Then he pointed to this one guy and said, “Falcão. This means hawk. In the roda you move like a hawk soaring in the sky.”
I watched as our teacher spread out his arms and imitated the movement. I thought to myself, Spot on! He does move like a hawk.
Next my teacher pointed to this skinny, small girl with funky hippie hair. She has played for awhile and I aspire to have her command of the game. She is always graceful and smiling.
Our teacher said to her, “Rio. This means river; your game is fluid like the water.” Wow! Amazed because this is precisely what I have always loved about her game but never pin pointed.
Then our teacher pointed to the guy standing to my right, “Sombra. This means shadow. Since you are a very tall black man with long legs, you are like a giant shadow moving in the roda.” This was true; the man is very tall and black with kicks that cast long shadows across your body.
I was surprised when the finger got pointed at me. I took a big gulp not expecting the honor of a name so soon, I didn’t think I quiet earned one yet.
My teacher said to me, “Cenoura.”
He paused, stood in the circle chuckling so that his shoulders moved up and down. I smiled back amused but nervous.
“Cenoura means carrot.”
His shoulders went up and down some more with a sly grin on his face. I turned the word over and over again in my mind. Carrot? Carrot? Carrot
Finally, I blurted out, “Why carrot?”
“Well you are tall, skinny and both your hair and face are red at the end of the roda.”
I went home that night and dreamt about d@mn carrots.
A Warrior Princess